There must be a Second EU Referendum
Last Monday (10 December) the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the UK could unilaterally revoke its letter of withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50.
It’s a measure of how desperate and how ideologically tied to Brexit Theresa May’s government is that they have wasted millions fighting against this case, chasing it progressively through the courts. It’s astonishing – if not outrightly bizarre! – that a government so bereft of viable options actually wanted to block off one of the most plausible. Then again, I’ve thought for some time that May and her multi-millionaire husband are members of the Elite in service to the Plutocracy who control most of the world’s wealth (Guy Standing, 2011; 2014). Thus, she and her government represent not the so-called ‘national interest’ but the interests of the ‘uber-rich’. Brexit is just one strand of the Plutocracy’s campaign to bring about massive worldwide deregulation of commerce and industry to they can maximise profit…and consequently their personal wealth. See: How the Plutocrats are waging War on the Bureaucrats….
The ECJ ruling is a significant blow to those in the Plutocracy and their Elite lackeys who see Brexit as a critical first step in dismembering the EU and getting rid of its regulatory inhibitions on unfettered exploitations of people and the environment. The meme that Brexit is irreversible, which the Government had tried so hard to pass off as the truth, has been shown to be false.
It is, of course, a mistake to perceive either the Plutocracy or the Elite as homogenous entities. There are several plutocrats who are more people-centred – eg: George Soros (worth just $8BN after donating more than $32 BN) to his philanthropic Open Society Foundation, according to Forbes) while Bill Gates ($95BN) and Richard Branson ($5BN) are both know for contributions to charitable enterprises. In Gravesian terms, such pluotcrats seem to be driven – at least some of the time – more by the GREEN than the ORANGE vMEME. Nonetheless, a callous, ruthless, highly manipulative and totally self-centred mindset does seem to characterise most of the plutocrats and their Elite lackeys.
Following the ECJ ruling, one of the more-pragmatic member of the Elite, former prime minister John Major, called for the Government to immediately rescind the Article 50 letter. Major’s call has been widely reported – eg: Rob Merrick in The Independent – and stimulated some considerable debate in a political week dominated by Brexit, the challenge by her own rebels to May’s leadership and the failure of her own way-too-ambitious attempt to persuade the EU to find a way of legally limiting any application of the ‘Northern Ireland backstop’.
Thankfully, May ignored Major’s intervention – and no other senior politician echoed his call. While the ECJ ruling does give the UK the option of withdrawal, for the Government or Parliament to take up that action without a further consultation with ‘the people’ would be widely seen as usurping the 2016 EU referendum and undermining Democracy. In the lead-up to the 2016 referendum David Cameron’s government mailed every household in the UK to say his government would implement the outcome of the referendum – thus effectively making the referendum result government policy. So, if ‘will of the people’ made the policy to withdraw, anything other than ‘the will of the people’ changing that policy would be seen as dismissing ‘the will of the people’.
The gift Parliament dare not use
There is no doubt legally that Parliament has the right to order the Government to rescind the Article 50 letter. The 2016 referendum was only ever advisory – see graphics below – and there was, legally, no obligation for either the Government or Parliament to accept the referendum result. It could be argued that Parliament should have debated the result in detail and then decided it was not in the national interest to implement it. The many criticisms of the conduct of the referendum campaigns, clear bias and falsehoods purveyed by certain politicians and many tabloids and viable allegations of Russian interference in the campaigns would all have lent an air of moral legitimacy to such a decision.
Ever since assuming power, Theresa May has made carrying out ‘the will of the British people’ her dictum. On the face of it, this looks like BLUE duty to the ‘national interest’. However, her desperate insistence on cleaving to the referendum outcome despite clear damage to her country, manipulation of both Leavers and Remainers amongst Conservative politicians and her refusal to consider any other course than the ‘deal’ she negotiated with Brussels looks more like a RED/ORANGE vMEME harmonic of self-interest. If she can only get the deal through Parliament, the UK’s standing in the world will have been considerably reduced but the economy not totally trashed; meanwhile, the EU will be considerably weakened post-Brexit and liable to more internal disputes, threatening further disintegration – to the delight of many plutocrats and their Elite lackeys. (The tensions between Western Europe and the ‘Visegrád 4’ – Solvakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland – are already way beyond simmering….) As for May and her hedge-fund husband and their friends in the Plutocracy and the Elite, the UK leaving the EU before the end of March 2019 means the UK won’t have to implement the Anti Tax Avoidance Directive which could have very unpleasant ramifications for Philip May, Jacob Rees-Mogg, David and Frederick Barclay and many of the uber-rich hiding their money in British tax havens.
By constantly referring to ‘the will of the British people’, May makes her self-interest look like the ‘national interest’. Thus, any challenge to her policy is a challenge to the ‘national interest’. May has displayed astonishing incompetence in her 18 months as prime minister but there is little doubt she is highly Machiavellian in the way she presents and distorts perception of her speeches and behaviour. Thus, though it has the right to, it would be extremely unwise for Parliament to simply cancel the Article 50 withdrawal letter.
Reconciling a divided nation
The unfortunate fact is that the 2016 referendum has left the UK a bitterly-divided kingdom. This is felt at a visceral PURPLE tribal level and it is difficult at first to see how the tribes of Leave and Remain can be reconciled. The 21st Century United Kingdom has many tribal lines of division – eg: Scots vs English, northerner vs southerner, working class vs middle class, young vs old and any number of racial and ethnic faultlines. But one divisive identifier seems increasingly to be dominating social life: are you a Leaver or a Remainer?
With the 29 March 2019 Brexit date drawing ominously near, I am slightly surprised there has not been violence yet and would not be surprised if violence does occur in the near future. Just the other Sunday (9 December) pro- and anti-Brexit marchers had to be kept apart by police at the ‘Brexit Betrayal’ march. For anyone who thinks I’m being melodramatic about the risk of violence, I would say simply: Jo Cox.
Tony Blair is the latest big hitter to call – yet again! – for a second EU referendum. (Prior to the EC J ruling, Major had been campaigning consistently for a second referendum.) Predictably May lashed out against Blair saying, rather waspishly: “For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.” (BBC News, 2018f) Blair’s response was rather more nuanced: “To describe such a course as an insult is a strange description of what would be the opportunity for them to instruct Parliament as to how to proceed. Far from being anti-democratic, it would be the opposite – as indeed many senior figures in her party from past and present have been saying.” (Sky News) However, what really makes May’s refusal to hold a second referendum seem both hypocritical and anti-democratic is her now-former Brexit secretary David Davis saying in a 2012 speech on the EU: “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy” (Benjamin Kentish in The Independent, 2017).
Thus, there is a principle that an electorate can change its mind – otherwise, there would be no point in having elections.
Given the facts that Parliament is in deadlock on May’s deal, the country has been split by the polarisations of the Brexit debate – the narrowness of the Leave victory in 2016 resolved nothing – and that extremism is growing on both sides, a second referendum may be the only way of healing our divided kingdom. The decision to leave the EU was made by ‘the people’ – how ever they were lied to and manipulated by the Elitist politicians and media; therefore, the rescinding of that decision must be made by ‘the people’. Moreover, as I argued in The Case for a Second EU Referendum is now compelling, there needs to be a margin of at least 10% for whichever side is the victor. The No result in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, with a 10% margin of victory was widely considered to have “settled the matter for a generation” (Alex Salmond, quoted by the Daily Telegraph’s Simon Johnson). SW 10% should be the minimum required to decide whether the UK rescinds the Article 50 letter or leaves the EU – even without a ‘deal’, if a satisfactory one cannot be obtained.
The conduct of a second referendum
Given both what is at stake and the amount of mistruths and outright lies purveyed by politicians on both sides – but mostly by Leave (Electoral Reform Society, as reported by The Guardian’s Rajeev Syal, 2016) – and the hysterical anti-EU propaganda pushed out by the right-wing tabloids, it is critical that a second referendum is run and monitored in a very different fashion to the 2016 plebiscite, to ensure fairness and transparency. I outlined ideas for this in The Case for a Second EU Referendum is now compelling and recommend readers to view and assess them in that Blog post.
It might be thought, with all the transfer of banks and other financial services to the continental EU, the resiting of some manufacturing and many delays in inward investment, not to mention the pressures placed on the NHS and agricultural industries by European immigrants returning home, with some economic forecasters predicting a post-Brexit recession worse than that of 2008-2009, that the vast majority of people would have turned against Brexit. This appears not to be the case.
As the NatCen poll tracker below shows, while Remain has more or less held a consistent lead over Leave during the past 18 months, the lead has not been that great – and nothing like as strong as might be predicted in view of the Government’s demonstrated incompetence during the Brexit negotiations and the manifest social and economic harm Brexit is already causing. This month polling expert analyst John Curtice (2018b) notes that 53% Remain and 47% Leave seems to be the most accurate reflection of current trend.
These stats show Remainers cannot afford in the slightest to be complacent. A reversal of Brexit by a second referendum, were that to come about, is far from a sure thing at this stage.
Of course, the right-wing tabloids have continued to vent their fury at the EU, unhindered and uncensored, blaming its intransigence rather than ‘Team May’s’ incompetence or lack of vision, for every setback in the negotiations. And, of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s personal tacit support for Brexit has deprived Labour of the ability to actually *oppose* the Government and hold it to account on Brexit.
In all fairness, little has changed in the ‘life conditions’ of many of the ‘left behind’ who voted Leave in 2016 – nor is much hope offered that their life conditions might improve. So little wonder that so many of them continue to believe the vitriol the Elite-owned tabloids heap on the EU and immigrants as the source of their misery.
Where hope might come for Remainers desperate to overturn Brexit in a second referendum is in the large number of ‘don’t knows’ and those who didn’t vote in 2016.. For some time Curtice (2018a; 2018b) has indicated that these are the ones who are most likely to be persuaded to vote Remain in a second referendum. So these substantial numbers of people, now experiencing the deleterious effects just of neo-Brexit (before we get the full thing), are the ones the anti-Brexiteers need to profile and target.
And what if Leave win again…?
If a second referendum, conducted fairly and transparently, with deceitful politicians and propaganda-spouting media held fully to account, produced a Leave victory of at least 10%, then the matter would have to be considered “settled for a generation”. Remainers would have to accept that, at this point in time, the majority of the people in the UK (as a single entity) preferred a lower standard of living and risking the break-up of the United Kingdom to being a part of the European Union.
But, just as the Leavers (Out) began plotting a future withdrawal from the EU shortly after the 1975 referendum delivered a very sizeable victory for Remain (In), there will be those who start working for another vote, even if it’s in another generation.